Thursday, December 10, 2009

North Korean currency reform

The North Korean news feed has been pretty repetitive lately, but one item making the rounds this week struck me as something unusual. The DPRK government has suddenly announced a major currency revaluation, printing all-new bills and making people exchange their old ones at a 100:1 rate. Not only that, people are severely limited in how many old bills they can exchange.

Reports say this move is aimed at weakening private markets and cracking down on the growing middle-class, two things that the regime sees as threats to its control. People who have managed to save some money through private enterprises, which the government had grudgingly allowed in recent years to supplement faltering state distribution, will now lose most of their savings, thus bringing everyone back to the same level.

It seems this move is provoking an unusual amount of anger from the people. Reports say that some are even torching their useless bills in frustration, a big no-no in North Korea where it is a serious crime to so much as fold a bill that has a picture of the Leader on it.

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